You may or may not know this—depending on how much of the advertising blitz for “The Hangover Part 2” you’ve absorbed in recent days—but it seems that the Wolfpack is in fact back. The most common cry across the landscape of the internet has been that the sequel looks exactly like the first film. On a recent episode of “Ellen”—yes, I watch “Ellen” from time to time—Bradley Cooper confirmed as much, and he is entirely correct. Director Todd Phillips and company employ the same “lost night” story-telling technique that worked so well in the original, and “The Hangover 2” is a really little more rehash of “The Hangover”. Which means that it is still pretty damn funny.
There are a few minor tweaks to the formula this time around—there is a bit more set up; the role of Las Vegas is played by Thailand; Stu (Ed Helms), the uptight dentist, is the one about to get married; there is a monkey instead of a baby; and at times they take the raunchy humor up a few notches past anything that resembles good taste, which is nice. But the story is so similarly structured that there are times you feel like you’re watching the same movie. We get it; Ken Jeong’s penis makes us laugh. You don’t have to tell us that, some things we just know at a genetic level.
Stu is set to marry Lauren (Jamie Chung). Her traditionalist Thai father hates Stu, going so far to compare him to a tasteless white-rice-paste that is fed to babies and the elderly; it serves a purpose, but is bland and no one really likes it. Lauren’s little brother, Teddy (Mason Lee), is a 16-year-old Doogie Howser-style med student, who is also a cello prodigy. When the guys, Phil (Cooper), Alan (Zach Galifianakis), and Stu, wake up in a seedy Bangkok hotel room, they discover two things. One, Stu has a very real replica of Mike Tyson’s face tattoo tattooed on his own face, and two, the only trace of Teddy is his severed finger. Also, where the hell did that monkey in the Rolling Stones vest come from? The gang has to piece together fragments of the previous evening in order to find Teddy before the wedding is ruined. Their quest takes them through the deepest bowels of the Bangkok underworld, including, but not limited to, brothels, monasteries, hermaphrodites, Russian gangsters, and a violent street riot.
While it pales in comparison to the first movie—whether this is due to inflated expectations, all of the subsequent knock offs, because the two films are so similar, or that it is just not at good, is unclear—but “The Hangover 2” is decently entertaining. If nothing else, it’s worth watching to see a monkey smoke cigarettes. Something about that is inherently funny. Not to give anything away, but there are some moments of near-shocking vulgarity—which is saying something when you consider how jaded most of us have become—including a few things I’m surprised they slipped past the censors. I think they got away with a couple, especially considering how a movie like “Blue Valentine” initially wound up with an NC-17 rating.
There are some masterful strokes of inspired madness, but overall “The Hangover 2” comes close to meeting expectations. The comedy is never as consistent or as intense as the first film, and you simply never get past the feeling that it is just a quick retread, a sensation that is most apparent than when Galifianakis is on screen. He’s got one trick, and I’m already exhausted by it. In “The Hangover”, Alan’s vapid lunacy fits organically into the scheme of things, but this time around his parts are forced and awkward, not in the intended way (maybe clunky or cumbersome are better words), and he is largely responsible for the staleness of the film. Everything he does is like they sat down around a table and tried to figure out something wacky for him to do in every given situation, and it’s tedious. Granted, Alan’s meditative flashback is genius, and is probably the best moment of the film, though outside of that, he made me mad more than he made me laugh. And seriously, they even manage to wear out a running monkey-puts-his-mouth-on-a-penis gag. That should always, always be funny, but I’ll be damned, they do it so often that that by the last time all you can do is sit back, throw up your hands, and say, “I never thought I’d see the day where a monkey touching a dude’s schlong didn’t make me laugh, but here we are.” It made me question my worldview a little. And every time one of the “Pack” mentions, “I can’t believe this is happening again”, you’ll want to gouge someone’s eyes out.
For all of the film’s faults, “The Hangover 2” is worth a look—especially to fans of raunchy humor, and especially if you can temper any expectations—but it is inconsistent, repetitive, and simply doesn’t quite measure up. It’s going to be a hit, there’s no question about that, it’s exactly what people want it to be, the first movie all over again. I loved “The Hangover”, I thought it was brilliant, but while the sequel is better than I feared it might be, it’s played out, and nothing to write home about.